Saturday, October 14, 2017

taking the swords out of words

~ sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me

It has taken me a long time to not disregard that rhyme as just plain wrong. Words, never hurt? What about the pen being mightier than the sword? Harsh words can wound us to our very cores. You can remove a sword but you cannot unhear words.

No, I always thought, "Words hurt like hell!" and for that reason have long dismissed forgiveness as a disingenuous attempt to let something go when in reality it is killing us.  First we heal, I thought, and when it stops hurting, then we can forgive, truly forgive.

But I am changing my mind. I still believe there is a lot of fake forgiveness out there, and that it is better to heal organically by feeling our pain, telling our stories and getting a "hearing" which validates our suffering, than to feign forgiveness through gritted teeth.  But now I believe we can dodge and remove the swords through forgiveness.

We live in a world where words are used like swords to argue, prove, debate and sell.  We are always fighting!  When someone offends us, we pick up the sword and fight.  But what if we didn't?

Luke 1:20-21 reads, "You will be silent until the child is born". God took speech away from Zechariah when he doubted his wife had conceived a child. Zechariah could have ranted and raved, and poured all his energy into that, but the child would be born or it would not be. God did him a favour.

Saying and doing nothing is acting without reacting, engaging a situation by disengaging, making peace. With silence we disarm the voices in our heads and enmity in the world.  As the swords drop from our words, we not only make peace, we find it, no longer captive of others' actions and our reactions.

Originally forgive meant simply to give totally, with all one's heart, and it applied to good things like marriage as well as bad things like legal offenses. Give. Forgive. Save your breath, and make peace.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The power of suggestion… NOT!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God
~John (1:1)

God said, "Let there be light", and there was light.  Some utterances fulfill the intention of the speaker.  They are prophetic words, potent words that create realities from the speaker's mind merely by claiming his vision out loud.

There is tremendous power in this. In the human realm, it is called suggestion. And it works.  If you say something emphatically, and repeat it often enough, especially if it is accompanied by a mental image, you can anticipate the future.  This is where the expression "be careful what you wish for" comes from.  Wishes pack the power of the verb*.  This can do good, but- like all power- it can also harm ourselves or others if we do not wield it carefully. 

When my friend's son was just a kid, his dad, well-meaning of course, told him emphatically, “Son, you will try drugs as a teenager and you will like them.”  It was meant as a warning but it came out as a positive suggestion.  He told his son this would come to pass. And, guess what?  It did. As soon as his son turned thirteen, he started experimenting with drugs, and he liked them.

Negative suggestion is just as, if not more, powerful than positive suggestion.

Everyone has heard of reverse psychology: tell someone not to do something and they will do the opposite.  God created the World by speaking it, but Adam and Eve fell because they ate from a tree He told them not to eat from.  He gave the Jews commandments telling them exactly what not to do, but they were a “stiff-necked” people who disobeyed at every turn. When he offered his son and said, “Go ahead, people, sin. Jesus loves you anyway!”, suddenly everyone who believed in Him behaved.  A coincidence?  I don’t think so!

Terrible two-year olds and teenagers predictably rebel against parental imperatives when phrased as commands to “not ” do something.  Just as it is in our nature to go through doors when they are held wide open, it is in our nature to resist closed ones. We are compelled to resist in order just to BE.  This is how we came into the world!  Taboos prohibiting us from being self-directed will surely find their way through the back door…

You can make a negative suggestion even when you are consciously inviting someone to be free.  Depending how you say it, they can end up taking the back door anyway:

Last week, someone sent money to the same friend's son for his birthday with a note, “Do something you wouldn’t normally do but don’t hurt yourself”.  The young man went out Saturday night with the cash to buy some weed and ended up in a dark alley where he got mugged by a group of thugs at knifepoint.  They took the gift of money and all other valuables the young man had, including his brand new jacket.  

The friend unwittingly gave the young man a negative suggestion: he told him not to do something dangerous, and he did it.

Negative suggestion can be as powerful as it is subtle.

I went to a conference on hypnosis once where the instructor demonstrated this very nicely.  He invited a volunteer up onto the stage and held his arm down by his side.  He said, “Try lifting your arm”.  The volunteer couldn’t budge it.  The instructor encouraged him, “Try again!”  And then louder, “Try harder!!” To no avail.  The man could not lift his arm.  The instructor dropped the man’s arm and said, “Relax.”  Then he bound it tightly again and said, “Now lift your arm.” Guess what?  He lifted it with ease.

When you ask someone to “try” in essence you are inviting them to not succeed.  It is a type of negative suggestion!  It is much more effective to say simply, “Do it.”

So be careful what you wish for.  And be as careful about what you wish not for!

* "verb": part of speech that expresses action or being" (12c.) directly from Latin verbum "verb," originally "a word," from PIE root *were- (3) "to speak" (source also of Avestan urvata- "command;" Sanskrit vrata- "command, vow[the Online Etymology Dictionary]